Social proof is an essential concept within a business brand strategy – but it can be elusive if you’re unsure how to get it!
It refers to a long-standing factor in customer decision-making, although social proof has evolved into digital testimonials, brand features, promotions and reviews.
The idea is that people respond to normative social influence, so we’re compelled to buy something, follow a brand or purchase a service when we perceive that it is well regarded by our peers or by those we consider experts in their field.
For example, if you land on a website with a quote from someone famous whose opinion you respect, you’re immediately more likely to believe the information you read and buy into whatever the brand is selling.
Essentially, social proof means you leverage influence from third parties to convey credibility.
The Psychology of Social Proof
The term might feel relatively new, but social proof has nothing to do with social media!
It was first used in 1984 when Robert Cialdini published a book called Influence which explores why we copy other people’s actions or try to replicate their behaviour.
So, how does social proof work (and is it real)? There is tons of information out there that attempts to quantify the social proof effect and rationalise the psychology that goes into each decision we make to buy, respond or react.
Here are a few social proof statistics to get started:
- 57% of shoppers visit a company website because they have read good reviews.
- Landing page conversions rise 400% with the feature of a trusted third-party logo.
- 63% of consumers are more likely to buy if they can see ratings and reviews.
- 92% of people trust recommendations from peers, and 70% will trust a review even if they don’t know the person who wrote it.
- 87% of buying decisions follow online research about the product or company.
These figures explain why so many businesses will be proactive about asking for reviews, ratings or testimonials – one happy shopper becomes a brand advocate, with their feedback an important factor in encouraging more people to buy.
Think about driving on the motorway. If the traffic is fast flowing, do you stick to your guns in the outside lane or automatically press the pedal a little harder to conform to the average speeds around you?
If you’re at a dinner party and everyone cuts their chicken drumstick with a knife and fork, will you pick yours up or copy what everyone else seems to be doing?
Social proof is powerful, and it’s everywhere – if you know what to look for!
Examples of Social Proof in Digital Marketing
Onto the world of digital marketing and how we use the social proof phenomenon to drive brand growth and expand customer audiences.
Data-driven, real-life examples of your product or service in action demonstrate how it has benefited another customer.
Software suppliers often use this strategy, featuring headline statistics to highlight the outcomes (e.g. ABC Ltd closed £100,000 of sales in six months after integrating our products!).
Short-form quotes or snippets from a review can be used universally and are an effective way to demonstrate value.
The ideal approach is to include a picture or thumbnail image, the person’s name, location or another meaningful metric. These small details add legitimacy to the testimonial, rather than looking like an extract the company has written about itself.
Reviews and Ratings
Reviews and customer ‘scores’ come from several sources. You might feature links to third-party review websites like TrustPilot, ask customers to rate a product out of five stars or write a short review in return for a discount code.
Ratings work well because they allow a customer to see what the overall opinion is about your product at a glance – Amazon star ratings are a great example!
Social media platforms give you all sorts of content you can display on your landing pages or use in your promotions.
You could feature follower numbers, snippets of posts with high engagement figures, positive feedback posted on your page, responses to Instagram polls or the number of people who have expressed an interest in an event.
If you or your business has accreditations or has won awards, featuring the logos of the awarding body is a fantastic example of social proof. You can include a range of logos, such as:
- Examination board logos
- Registration bodies such as professional accreditation providers
- Membership organisations (think the Federation of Small Businesses or your local Chamber of Commerce)
- Publications that have featured your brand
- Icons to reach your social media feeds
In many cases, a customer won’t click the icon to review the content but will be swayed simply by the presence of logos they know and trust.
The best influencers are family and friends, but endorsements from well-known individuals or brands within your sector can significantly impact your revenues.
Whether you submit a product for an independent review or have a service mentioned by an opinion leader, their connection to your brand positively influences audience perceptions.
Benefits of Social Proof for Business Growth
Social proof is relevant to almost every industry but is extremely important in eCommerce and any business that attracts, engages with or sells to customers in the digital space.
Today’s consumers are savvy and tend to approach company advertising or paid promotions with a degree of scepticism, whereas social proof does the opposite! It uses another voice to add credence to what you have to say.
The benefits of leveraging social proof as a motivating force include:
- Showcasing your expertise and position in your sector, endorsed by respected experts and trusted brands.
- Highlighting your success, using reviews, the number of products sold, or even scarcity to incentivise a potential customer to convert.
- Building trust for the long-term, by associating your business with influential names or independent review sites that consumers respect.
By tapping into our natural human instinct to follow the actions of others, you can lower barriers to conversion, build credibility and trust, and ultimately grow your business.